THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
June 3, 2014
Guest: E.J. Dionne, Willie Brown, Chaitanya Komanduri, Kim Sturla, Jeff
ARI MELBER, GUEST HOST: The polls just closed in Iowa. We`re covering the
results live there tonight.
And in Mississippi, including whether the Tea Party is going to make its
first primary win in the Senate.
But, first, we`re going to look at the right-wing playbook for the newly
released American POW, a wounded man who isn`t even out of the hospital
yet. Swift boat first. Ask questions later.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Days after the decision to swap five former Taliban
commanders for America`s only prisoner of war.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s a great day for America I could not be angrier
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The questions and the controversy and growing.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Growing anger directed at Bergdahl.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was Bergdahl a hero or a deserter?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What they did not expect is was the blowback on
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Army launches a full scale inquiry to find out.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How much of this do you think is politics? How much
of this is going to be a legitimate inquiry to what actually went on?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think this will feed into the summer of
hearings, hearings about Benghazi?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Benghazi. Benghazi. Benghazi.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those hearings about Lois Lerner.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Six or seven on the IRS.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These days, the Republicans will criticize President
Obama for whatever he does.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was Bergdahl a hero or deserter?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let`s at least give Sergeant Bergdahl a chance to tell
his side of the story.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He just walked off the base willingly. Would you
then oppose an operation or swap to get him back.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It puts a whole different light on it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Despite, President Obama is standing by his decision.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Regardless of the
circumstances, whatever those circumstances may turn out to be.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One military law expert who say, what everybody has to
do right now is cool down a little bit.
OBAMA: We still get an American soldier back if he is held in captivity,
period, full stop.
MELBER: A good evening to you. I am Ari Melber, in for Lawrence
There is a lot we don`t know about the transfer that returned former
American POW Bowe Bergdahl to U.S. custody, whether he was he lost or was
he a deserter for example? Or whether this trade could lead to larger
negotiations with the Taliban?
What we do know is that Bergdahl, a former POW who`s under treatment now at
a military hospital, is being swift boated by the reflexive anti-Obama
machine. And we know that whatever process he may ultimately face,
whatever judgment he might ultimately be issued even in a military court,
we know that right now, he does deserve better than this.
Last night, Bill O`Reilly said Bergdahl`s father looked Muslim. Today, FOX
built on that theme.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean he says he was growing his beard because his son
was -- because his son was in captivity. Well, your son is out now. So,
if you really don`t -- no longer want to look like a member of the Taliban,
you don`t have to look like a member of the Taliban. Are you out of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Meanwhile, "The New York Times" reported on a very unusual
Republican project, a former aide to Mitt Romney, is now organizing a PR
push for Bergdahl`s former platoon members. Take a look at this pretty he
unusual line from today`s paper that we are seeing. Quote, "Yes, I`m
angry," Joshua Cornelison, a former medic in Sergeant Bergdahl`s platoon,
said in an interview. And this is the important part -- in an interview
arranged by Republican strategists.
What exactly are Republican strategists doing in the middle of that
reporting? "The Times" then also went on to quote another former platoon
mate of Bergdahl who offered a seemingly minor social detail, saying,
quote, "He wouldn`t drink beer or eat barbecue and hang out with the other
20-year-olds", said in an interview also arranged by Republican
Those soldiers of course have every right to their views, but many of their
new political allies have little interest here in the facts or the history
around Bergdahl, swift boating is hunting much bigger game.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a federal statute which makes it a felony to
provide material assistance to a terrorist organization, including human
assets. So, I have argued that by letting these people free, and their
natural, probable -- results of them being let free is that they will
rejoin this terrorist organization. The president has done what his
Justice Department prosecuted people for, successfully prosecuted people
for -- providing material assistance to a terrorist organization.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: You don`t have to listen closely there to hear why conservatives
are so downright excited about all of this. This is not a debate for them
about policy, about whether this was the right trade, which would be of
course the fair debate. It is now a debate about working against America
and a pretty conspiratorial link between some of the worst accusations
against the former POW, which are currently totally unproven and rhetorical
questions about this particular president`s commitment to our national
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS: The release of the five Taliban war criminals,
sets a troubling precedent and it`s almost indefensible in the face of
Sergeant Bergdahl`s status. Mr. Obama is going to do what he wants to do
and the consequences be damned. I believe that assessment is accurate.
Just think about it. Why would you swap one alleged deserter, because
surely President Obama knows the guy left his unit voluntarily, for five,
five notorious war criminals? Why would anyone do that? It simply doesn`t
make sense, because these Taliban guys will go back to killing people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Why would anybody do that, Bill O`Reilly wants to know? Why ever
release any fighter who targeted Americans?
That could sound like a damning question to people who have no familiarity
with our history whatsoever. But countries of course make tough calls
about exchanging POWs all the time. And do so often at the end of many
conflicts that involve living with our former enemies. Not vanquishing
every last one of them.
Even FOX News viewers reminded of that basic historical fact when a former
national security counsel from the Bush administration was asked about this
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BELLINGER, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL LEGAL ADVISER: I do think
this is a defensible deal. This is not an easy decision. And, and, the
national security world often for government, you are caught between hard
choices like this. So, certainly, this deal can be criticized.
But, you know, sometime in the next couple of years, perhaps as early as
2015, we would be required to return these Taliban any way. The war in
Afghanistan is winding down. And we would be required at the end of the
conflict to return them. It seems reasonable in this case to get our
Sergeant Bergdahl back not new leave him on the battlefield, return people
we would have to return sooner or later anyway.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Bellinger served as President Bush`s senior associate counsel. He
also advised the National Security Council.
There are, of course, serious questions to ask about Bergdahl, his record
and whether the transfer was worth the risk, a risk that exists, a risk
that we have to measure. But it is telling that so many of the loudest
voices here on the right today remain utterly uninterested in any of the
questions and are instead obsessed with hurling any accusation that might,
just might stick to this particular president.
Joining me now is Karen Finney, host of MSNBC`s "DISRUPT WITH KAREN
FINNEY", and Steve Clemons, Washington editor at large for "Atlantic
Magazine", and, of course, an MSNBC contributor.
Good evening to you both.
Steve, is John Bellinger right?
STEVE CLEMONS, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely. John Bellinger, who is
Condoleezza Rice`s lawyer, and was George W. Bush`s senior lawyer on the
National Security Council, made a very good point. We were going to have
to give up those soldiers, or those Taliban commanders eventually. We got
a soldier that had been captured. We got a deal.
But I think what John Bellinger is saying, international law matters. And
the further prosecution of the issues matters. I think one of the thing
that`s been missing is what are we going to do in Afghanistan?
The Taliban is not al Qaeda. They are a very large incumbent force that we
are going to have to deal with even after we leave Afghanistan. We need
new look at the strategic context of Bergdahl, not the narrow sense of one
guy for five Taliban commanders.
MELBER: Right. And those five Taliban commanders, Karen, come out of a
larger number of 600 people at Guantanamo who have been released. Most
have not returned to the battlefield. Some have. That is a risk that is
involved every time you deal with detention issues.
KAREN FINNEY, DISRUPT: Right. Right. That`s exactly right.
And based on what my understanding is, there is a real question as to what
these five individuals will do, will they go back into an operational role?
Is that a reasonable assumption? And why is it the Republicans who are now
criticizing the president?
Two things. One, very recently, as recently as, as just a few weeks ago
were urging the administration to do whatever was in their power to free
Bowe Bergdahl, that`s one. And then, two, certainly, I didn`t hear any
voices raising concerns during the Bush administration when a number of
individuals were freed. And as you pointed out, some did end up going back
to the battlefield.
MELBER: Yes, to your point about the history here. We get it. There are
hypocrisies in politics. But this is pretty serious. Particularly when
you look at the kind of innuendo hurled against a POW, who can`t get up to
speak to defend himself. He is literally being debriefed in a military
And as I said, if there is any court martial process, then that will play
out. But let`s be judicious about that and not begin with the swift
boating. Let`s not begin with the questions.
On the diplomatic front, Steve, I want to play some sound and I want to
play at length, because it`s illuminating and to be fair, of Senator McCain
in February asked about the possibility of this very same transfer swap,
the same individuals coming out of Gitmo.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: The Taliban demanded the release of five prisoners
from Guantanamo in exchange for his release. Well, today, a U.S. official
confirmed that the new discussions led by diplomats and the Pentagon are
Would you oppose the idea of some form of negotiations or prisoner
exchange? I know back in 2012, you called the idea of negotiating with the
Taliban, bizarre, highly questionable.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Well, at that time, the proposal was that
they would release Taliban, some hard core, particularly. Five, really
hard core Taliban leaders as a confidence-building measure.
Now, this idea is for an exchange of prisoners for -- for our American
fighting man, I would be inclined to support such a thing, depending on a
lot of the details.
COOPER: So if there was some, possibility of some sort of exchange, that`s
something you would support?
MCCAIN: I would support -- obviously, I would have to know the details.
But I would support ways of bringing him home and if exchange was one of
them, I think that would be something I think we should seriously consider.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Steve, put that in context for us.
CLEMONS: Well, John McCain was a prisoner of war. He understands
prisoners of war. We have Chuck Hagel, secretary of defense, who is known
as Sergeant Hagel. It is a sacred responsibility to go bring soldiers home
that are made prisoners of war. This war is coming to an end. I think
John McCain was quite sensible at that time.
You know, Denis McDonough, the president`s chief of staff, said
unambiguously yesterday, I was in the room, that he not only knows
consultations were held between the White House and the Congress. He did
the consultations. And I`m sure John McCain was part of the consultations
around that time among others.
So, I think what you are seeing is a lot of opportunistic, knee jerk,
politicking around Bergdahl in a way to oppose any foreign policy success
that President might try -- you know, might be achieving here. But the
broader issue is, in Qatar, the Taliban have an office. We have been
trying to structure a peace deal with them, and this step with Bergdahl is
vital to that.
MELBER: And, Karen, as we look at the fallout. At what point do this kind
of attacks on this POW, before he`s had a potential day in court, if he
ever has a day in court, at that point do you think they may actually
backfire on some of these right-wing critics?
FINNEY: I certainly hope sooner rather than later. But I think we are --
you know, here is one of the things they have done on the right. They
jumbled all of the issues together. And they`re sort of using surrogates,
if you will, to attack this young man and sort of attack, which is an
American idea that you are innocent until proven guilty, by the way. It`s
part of what we are supposed to be fighting for, that they have jumbled all
of this together so that essentially the focus is on, questioning President
Obama`s decision making, rather than -- I mean, we have a number of
different, use here, right?
And rather than separating them out and taking them piece by piece. They
are, I think, as Steve said, being very opportunistic. And I have to say,
it`s really disgusting. I mean, it was not even, within hours, we saw
attacks on this young man on this decision.
There wasn`t a moment. You would have liked to have seen a moment of,
let`s all rejoice as a country that, this young man was freed. Then let`s
deal with the other issues. But we, we barely even got that moment.
MELBER: Right. The issues are, as we have said, larger than this
individual. I really think there is nothing more anti-American here than
being anti-American. And to the extent that these attacks are political,
the ones from the Republicans in "The New York Times." people with
vendettas against this individual. It`s totally out of bound. I
distinguish that from some of his former platoon mates who may have their
own views and no political ax to grind.
We are going to keep on the story, obviously.
Karen Finney and Steve Clemons, thank you for your time tonight.
CLEMONS: Thank you, Ari.
MELBER: Next, we`re going to our election night coverage as promised. We
have some breaking news and results from Iowa and Mississippi, where
Republicans are fending off a Tea Party challenge. The balance of power
and picture in the Senate may get clearer tonight. That`s straight ahead
with Steve Schmidt, former Republican strategist for John McCain.
And what the NRA is really afraid of when it comes to restaurants saying no
to big guns in their restaurants. The video next up.
Also, we`re going to look at something, a video that went viral over the
weekend. Nearly 6 million hits on the story of a goat and a donkey
separated and lost without each other. They were reunited. What happened
THE LAST WORD is your place for the story. Mr. G, the goat, and Jellybean
the donkey. I have their rescuer here. You don`t want to miss that.
MELBER: You may have heard it`s primary night in America. The polls just
closed in Iowa, awaiting results in a Mississippi race that could put a Tea
Partier in the Senate. E.J. Dionne, Steve Schmidt, and Kasie Hunt join me
MELBER: We return to our election coverage tonight. Eight states have
voted to day in the two most closely watched races, the votes are now being
In Iowa, polls closed minutes ago at 10:00 p.m. Eastern. Political
newcomer Joni Ernst going into today`s race as the front-runner. That`s a
five-person GOP primary. The winner there, needs 35 percent of the vote
tonight to move to a general election campaign, if no one reaches that
threshold in Iowa, a state convention that will pick the winner.
Now Joni Ernst, you may recall, first, drew national attention with this
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONI ERNST (R), IOWA SENATE CANDIDATE: I grew up castrating hogs on an
Iowa farm, so when I get to Washington I will go now how cut pork.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: She distinguished her self from a crowded Republican field and
eventually and drew endorsements from Sarah Palin, Marco Rubio and Mitt
The national stakes may be even higher in Mississippi. Polls close at 8:00
p.m. Eastern. We have some numbers. Right now with about 58.7 percent of
precincts reporting, six-term incumbent Senator Thad Cochran has a slight
lead over his Tea Party challenger, Chris McDaniels. That`s been a tight
race all week. Senator Cochran has 50.8 percent.
We are going to go, I think, let`s go directly out. We have Kasie Hunt,
E.J. Dionne, Steve Schmidt all with us tonight.
Let`s go right to you, Kasie, on the numbers. What do we hear?
KASIE HUNT, NBC NEWS: At this point, it is anybody`s guess. This is a
very, very, close race.
All along, Senator Cochran has had a little bit of an edge. But no one in
the Cochran campaign is sure that that`s going to hold. They`re up in some
places, where they need to be up. But they`re not as far up as they would
look to be in some other places.
At this point, we are also watching for the remote possibility that this
could head to a run-off. There is actually a third candidate in this race.
If no one hits 50 percent, if the third candidate`s margin is bigger than
the difference between Cochran and McDaniels, we could see three weeks of
the race. That`s still an outside chance at this point.
And with these numbers so close, there is no telling if that could happen
MELBER: And, Kasie, what are you hearing from any folks on the Cochran
HUNT: They started out this night nervous, but cautiously optimistic. I
will say, I was here a few months ago. It was a situation where McDaniel
was trying to come from behind. He was sort of, you know the Tea Party
candidate. No one was sure if he was going to catch fire.
It`s pretty clear he has caught fire in the meantime. He was sort of taken
down a peg by this nursing home scandal. Some supporters of his were
arrested in conjunction with a break in to Senator Cochran`s wife`s
bedside. And that has sort of scrambled the race in the final days.
So, between the McDaniel`s surge sort of fading in the face of that. And
Cochran`s campaign sort of keeping on forward, it -- we have ended up at a
pin the where no one really knows what the outcome is going to be.
MELBER: And, E.J., what`s your view? I know you were out and about today.
Looking at what the McDaniel campaign has been up to. What is your view of
this race right now?
E.J. DIONNE, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think the McDaniel folks, I was up in
Hattiesburg tonight. And let`s give Republicans in this state credit.
Both candidates have live bands at their parties. You don`t see that
DIONNE: But the McDaniel people really believe that they have sent a
message, one way or the other. Because, they have really -- if Cochran
ekes this out, they believe this does not mean an end to the Tea Party.
There is this run-off possibility team.
The first person to suggest this rather gleefully was Ricky Cole (ph) last
night, the Democratic chairman, who would devoutly love the campaign to
continue. Because Democrats actually have a plausible candidate in former
Congressman, Travis Childress. Most people around here don`t think
Childress can defeat Cochran.
But if McDaniel were to pull this out -- and particularly after a really
bitter three more weeks, you would have the odd possibility of a real
contest for a Senate race in Mississippi, which no one was anticipating at
the beginning of the year.
Steve Schmidt, this is a -- this is a place where the Republicans in
presidential years, pull about 55 percent. That`s a lot. Not necessarily
totally out of the ballpark for a Democrat under the right circumstances.
Walk us through the fact that when we say as a reporter tonight. Thad
Cochran up a couple points, 42-year incumbent. These kinds of races
typically aren`t supposed to be close in the first place, Steve.
STEVE SCHMIDT, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: No, look, Thad Cochran didn`t run
a great campaign. Questions about his residency in the state. McDaniel
ran a great insurgent campaign against him, in a part of the country where
the Tea Party is alive, well, thriving, very upset with the establish, in
And I think at the end of the day, what might have happened here is the
dirty trick perpetrated by people really close to McDaniel may have been
enough off to put Thad Cochran over the top and over the threshold -- very,
very narrowly, to avoid a run-off situation.
But it is still early in the night out there. This is a very, very close
race. And does point out Thad Cochran`s vulnerability in the state.
But it`s still tough to see how Democrats would pick the state up in
MELBE: Yes, you mentioned some of that, in sort of the hangover of the
dirty tricks. Cochran seized on that in an ad. Let`s actually listen to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AD NARRATOR: Chris McDaniel`s radio co-host, fundraiser, and hometown
friend charged with felonies. The McDaniel campaign scandal spreads. Had
AD NARRATOR: Senator Thad Cochran is the best of what makes Mississippi
great. Navy veteran endorsed by NRA and Governor Phil Bryant, and National
Right to Life, and voted against Obamacare over 100 times.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: You got to get the 100th anti-Obama vote, it`s 99 and you don`t
know if you are against it.
But, Kasie, walk us through how the ads are working and the idea that
Cochran despite his voting record was somehow beating back these charges
that he was insufficiently conservative for this electorate.
HUNT: Well, this was, less about -- McDaniel`s people have been trying to
cast him as insufficiently conservative. Cochran has been running on the
idea that he brings back all the federal money to the state. Obviously
something that doesn`t resonate with Tea Party voters around here.
But, you know, at this point, those ads, you know late in the campaign,
particularly the nursing home ad that you played a little bit of. It has
clearly had an impact on McDaniel. He was surging here.
In the weeks before that ad went up on the air, the Cochran campaign has
really seized on it. And, and focused on it. Now, I will say there is a
little dissent among Cochran supporters for how effective the campaign was
and handling the nursing home scandal. In the press, the campaign went out
there and litigated it and some times back and forth, questioning
statements. McDaniel campaign had made. And that sort of made them look
like they were getting down in the mud a little bit and there were some who
say that was a bad idea. And that actually activated some of McDaniel
supporters to feel defensive and be more excited to go out to the polls and
stand up for him.
MELBER: E.J., your thoughts?
DIONNE: I think also the story had a weird double edge to it. I think
Kasie is right on what she said and on top of that, the story did get a
discussion going of Senator Cochran`s relationship with an aide who
traveled with him.
A lot of people I talked to wondered if the whole thing was a wash,
although at least from Cochran`s point of view, it did stop what looked
like a surge for Daniel.
MELBER: Yes, and, Steve, we are now seeing that with about, we are doing
breaking news here, what we are learning with about 70 percent in, is we
see Cochran, just edging up over the 50 percent mark. Just give us the
break you, does he hold his own in the rest of these precincts.
SCHMIDT: It`s too close to say. I mean, certainly, when you are sitting
on election night. You have 70 percent in, you`re up over 50 percent,
you`re in a close race. You are feeling good. But you are not totally
thinking this is in the bag.
And of course, both campaigns are looking abut what parts of state are
ballots coming in from. What`s outstanding? And are they coming from the
state where each man has an advantage on the model? Depending on where the
outstanding ballots are. That will be the tale for the evening.
MELBER: All right. That`s what we`ll be watching.
Steve Schmidt, thank you. Kasie Hunt and E.J. Dionne, on location in
Mississippi. Thank you as well.
DIONNE: Good to be with you.
HUNT: Thanks, Ari. Great to be with you.
MELBER: Have fun tonight and enjoy the live band.
Now, coming up, voters in one state tonight are deciding if they want to
secede and become the 51st state. Where? And why is this happening?
That`s up next.
MELBER: And in the spotlight tonight, there is a big vote in California
that is not about any politicians on the ballot, it is about secession on
the ballots. Every California counties are actually holding votes on
seceding to create a new state. At this hour votes are coming in counties
Del Norte and Tehama counties where residents voted on a ballot measure
proposing to form a 51st state. They want to call it Jefferson. And that
would join four northern counties that already voted to join the movement.
There is another secession vote on this in Boot County next week.
Organizers say secession will ensure rural and smaller communities have
more power and more control over their own particular way of life.
Documentary filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi got a firsthand account of why they
feel the need to secede.
ALEXANDRA PELOSI, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER (voice-over): I`m here at northern
border of California where they`re voting on whether or not to secede from
the rest of California and form the 51st state.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fire!
PELOSI: Why do you want to secede from California?
MARK BAIRD, RESIDENT: The reason we need to do this is our survival
depends upon it. Most of the legislators in Sacramento have never been to
the northern rural counties? And what we would look from Sacramento is
representation so that we can help determine the direction our own lives
Men and women will die here today. I want you to think about that.
PELOSI: So, you are starting your own civil war now?
BAIRD: This is the civilest of wars. This is about taxation without
representation. We know our votes don`t count. The urban agenda, the
urban legislators absolutely overwhelm us. The time has come for 51. We
have to do this now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Interrupting you?
PELOSI: No, that`s all right. We are having fun fighting.
BRANDON CRISS, COUNTY SUPERVISOR: We have nothing against San Francisco
and Los Angeles. There are just laws that get passed in those areas by
those representatives that don`t necessarily have the view point of what we
have up here. If the government is not willing to come up here and visit
with us, we can`t expect them to understand this.
Sometimes I feel like, I am treated like a foreigner in my own state. And
sometimes I feel like they treat, the county, like it is -- like, you know
another world, or another country. Like we have to have -- you know, an
embassy up here so we can have representation from, from Sacramento to come
up here and actually pay attention to us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is totally different cultures. We are rural people
being told what to do by a bunch of multimillionaire people. They are all
fine with smoking pot. But if you want to -- own a firearm, well, I guess
you are -- that`s, no. That`s not good. So it is OK to get stoned. But
it`s not OK to defend yourself if somebody breaks into your house.
PELOSI: But if you get your 51st state hour, are you going to sustain
yourself? You don`t have business here like Hollywood has movies, San
Francisco has tech. You don`t have anything here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This area has ranching, it has farming, it has lumber,
it has mining, it has fishing along the coast. There are lots of things
that can be done here. And I think the only way to do it let us have our
own state so we can live the way we want to.
MELBER: Joining me, former San Francisco mayor, Willie Brown and political
strategist, Chaitanya Komanduri, who has worked for President Obama and
Welcome to you both.
CHAITANYA KOMANDURI, POLITICAL STRATEGIST: Thank you.
WILLIE BROWN, FORMER SAN FRANCISCO MAYOR: Thank you.
MELBER: Mayor Brown, let me start with you. What`s going on out there?
BROWN: Well, that has been some, some form of a concept for a very long
time. People have wanted representation, tailored to just them. Even
though they are in a distinct minority in terms of numbers they`re very
poor place. They do not offer anything to the rest of the state of
California except maybe a little built of land and there is not much
And so, they really are struggling for what they don`t have. And that is
exclusive representation. They have general representation, like the rest
of us. They want exclusive.
MELBER: Yes. And Chaitanya, I know you have been a practitioner of
politics and student of political history. Secession is a big recurring
theme in our history. And not just in the south, I should mention, we have
a map that shows what the U.S. would look like if all the previous attempts
had been successful, kind of crazy. We would have 124 states in total.
What do you make of this sort of recurring or perpetual interest in and out
of the south, in and out of the confederate reference to the politicians of
KOMANDURI: Yes, look this is not really a new problem. I mean, the
country mouse and city mouse have been at loggerheads since the time of
ASAF. But I would argue this really is a new phenomenon, something that is
really different from the previous secession movements in the country. It
is a movement that has really been exacerbated by an extreme brand of Tea
Party rhetoric that has really exploited a real crisis in rural America.
I mean, if you think about it, you just heard on the video there, a lot of
discussion about access to high caliber guns. But what about providing
high quality education which would do much more for rural America and
plight of rural America? Didn`t hear anything about that. Didn`t hear
anything beyond resentment. No, no real positive solutions to the problems
of rural Americans.
MELBER: Yes. And Mayor Brown, what do you make of that. And the idea of
this being in rural parts of California, where not to generalize, people
don`t think of the Tea Party being as strong on the west coast. Nor there
being as much of an interest in second amendment absolutism.
BROWN: Well in part. It clearly has implications for the Tea Party. And
it comes with the Tea Party`s blessings. The conservative attitude, the
absence of any full understanding of diversity, the indifference to almost
every other problem that human beings experience regardless of where they
You cannot live like that. You have got to be thinking of everybody. And
you have got to be contributing and one fashion or another to a solution to
all of the problems, not just making it, a bigger problem for yourself, by
isolation. That`s what this movement is attempting to do.
MELBER: Chaitanya, let`s look at this a little bit in the broader
political context. And we were just in the previous block, looking at
Mississippi, and Tea Party challenge there, and a lot of calls for, a more
historical conservatism. Do you think in some sense, the Republican Party
gets to benefit from some of the passions and everybody feeling like
they`re into American history? Or do you think this is really going to
hobble them as they look towards another national race in 2016?
KOMANDURI: It is going to definitely hobble them. I mean, if you look at
(INAUDIBLE), only 16 percent of Americans live in rural America. And that
is a number that is dropping every single year. A century ago, 72 percent
of Americans lived in rural America. The decline of rural America, the big
reason why the Republicans have lost the popular vote in five of six
However, as these voters have vanished, you have seen the rhetoric become
more extreme. And, you know we talk about the Tea Party, versus GOP, well,
this last weekend we just had the star of Duck Dynasty, at a Republican
So, that tells you exactly where the GOP is going. It is not in any
positive place. It is certainly not any place that is designed to answer
any of the very real need that people in rural California and the rest of,
rest of rural America really do have.
If you look at for example in California, the parts of the state that
really want to secede, they, that is the part of the state that has been
most affected by climate change, particularly, the terrible drought that we
have had in California. However, the Republican leadership, including that
star of Duck Dynasty was clear they deny that.
MELBER: And Mayor Brown, we are about to go. The last point I want to
mention is the California counties that are looking at this on secession,
have 25 percent of California`s land mass, but only one percent of the
population. Sort of the reverse of maybe what you had in San Francisco.
So, in that sense, are they, are they really -- out of leverage as they ask
for more power?
BROWN: They`re totally out of leverage. When this country went to one
man, one vote, and baker versus car, the power of the people who had small
populations began to win. It is now in fact where it should be. We ought
to be representing people, not land. We should be representing people, not
trees. And that`s what this nation has said in its democratic way. And
believe me, rural America, has got to be obedient to that, as rural America
was years ago.
MELBER: Yes. And one person, one vote seems to make more sense than one
tree, one vote.
Willie Brown and Chaitanya Komanduri, thank you both for joining me
And coming up what really scares the NRA? That`s next.
MELBER: The big gun news yesterday was the NRA struck a different note by
calling out activists who are brandishing assault weapons on their burrito
runs. And the big gun news tonight, the NRA is backing off the statement
and that is next.
MELBER: The NRA drew lots of attention when it disagreed with a pro gun
group. Open carry Texas for bringing assault rifles to some sort of gun
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Glad to accommodate you and happy to sit you and
feed you. You just have o leave your firearms outside.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got to leave them outside?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Over 100 of the group`s members gathered outside stores this
weekend. Chipotle was so worried about demonstrations that it went on and
asked customers around the country to leave their guns at home when they
went on burrito runs.
The NRA statement noted that while unlicensed open carry of long guns is
typically legal in most places, it is a rare sight to see someone saddle up
next to you in line for lunch with a 7.62 point rifle slung across his
chest. Not only is it rare, it`s downright weird.
Open carry Texas didn`t like that and responded by saying if the NRA
wouldn`t detract their disgusting, and disrespectful comments, OCT will
have no choice but to withdraw its full support of the NRA and establish
relationships with other gun organizations.
So, what did the NRA do? It backed down as lobbyists went on this radio
show they have. It is an NRA show to explain that statement that they
posted on their Website was just the view of one staffer expressing a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS COX, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: The truth is, an alert went out
that referred to this type of behavior as weird or somehow not normal. And
that was a mistake. It shouldn`t have happened. I have had a discussion
with the staffer who wrote that piece and expressed his personal opinion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Personal opinion. OK. Maybe the NRA has employees who think the
Web site is actually their personal blog. But this whole exchange is
actually far more revealing than the NRA ever intended. And that`s because
it had to explain why. Why did it object to the open carry demonstrations
in the first place? The NRA`s original criticism, you remember, was not
that someone might get hurt. But that their political standing might get
Here is the first statement again. If it explained that quote "when people
act without thinking or without consideration for others especially when it
comes to firearms, they set the stage for further restrictions on our
rights, firearms owners facing up challenges these days. We don`t need to
be the victims of friendly fire.
So, the NRA isn`t against brandishing assault weapons because it is
dangerous, and menacing, and provocative for everyone who is nearby. But
because it is a political risk for those firearm owners facing a challenge
on any rules on their guns which in the statement the NRA tastelessly
refers to as quote "friendly fire." That`s why they see all of this as
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COX: What is the best tactic to win? That`s what we are interested in.
We are not interested in distractions. We are not interested in arguing
with the national news media over this. We are interested in winning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Sadly the only confusion there is about whether the NRA actually
thought bringing assault rifles to dinner for no reason was a bad idea.
They don`t think it is a bad idea. They just think it is bad PR.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COX: Ultimately what this comes down to is a tactics discussion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: And we are bringing you breaking news from Iowa tonight. Joni
Ernst, the candidate who ran ads about hog castration and shooting guns at
Obamacare, well, she has now won the Iowa GOP Senate primary tonight. We
do not know who she will face on the democratic side yet. But those are
And up next, we have a last word exclusive with the rescuers of Mr. G and
MELBER: Tonight, the "LAST WORD" goes to a story of friendship and
perseverance as captured the hearts of millions, the story of Mr. G and
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYING)
MELBER: And joining me now is Jeff McCracker, a volunteer that drove 14
hours to reunite the animals and animal place executive director, Kim
Sturla and off course, Mr. G and Jellybean.
Welcome to everybody.
Kim, tell me about the type of situation where these animals were rescued
KIM STURLA, ANIMAL PLACE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: They came from southern
California from kind of a hoarding situation. And it was an elderly person
who could no longer properly care for the animals. And neighbors were
concerned. They called animal control. Animal control came and
intervened. And then a local rescuer, really matched us up with, animal
control down in L.A.
MELBER: And Kim, how did you know that Mr. G wasn`t just down and out, but
was going to be, I guess cheered up by having a friend?
STURLA: Well, good question and I didn`t know for certain. We had rescued
Mr. G, the goat, because we felt we could find a home for him. Another
sanctuary was going to take Jellybean. But when Mr. G came up here, all
the way from Los Angeles, to northern California, he was completely off
food. And this went day after day, after consulting with veterinarians,
offering him everything imaginable. He couldn`t leave his stall. And we
wouldn`t eat anything.
And then we learned that he was actually very good friends with the donkey
down there. So, we took a hunch. We took a gamble. And put a call out
for volunteer who was willing to drive down there with the stock trailer
and pick up Jellybean.
MELBER: Right. And that goes to Jeff. Nut my last question to you, Kim
though, is tell us about when they came together and were so happy?
STURLA: Well, that was videotaped. And of course that`s the video that
has gone viral with millions of viewers. But, just the transformation of
when he heard Jellybean come out, getting come out of the stock trailer,
got a whiff of him and then saw him. It was almost instantaneous. It was
a different animal.
And it`s a beautiful illustration that, the bond, and the intellect and the
connection that animals have with one another and with different species.
And those of us that work around animals and live around them we know that.
But this is a store that we were able to document and share with others.
That`s the beauty of it.
MELBER: Yes, as you say, a beauty that a lot of people are connecting
Jeff, tell me about your trip?
JEFF MCCRACKER, DROVE 14 HOURS TO REUNITE THE ANIMALS: Well, I had never
actually towed a donkey before. So this was kind of going to be an
exciting trip. So, when I heard animal place needed someone to transport
the donkey. I said I would be happy to do it. And I came up and got their
stock trailer and shot on down to L.A. with the help of the folks with
animal control, got Jellybean loaded. And, turned around and came on back.
So, when I got up to, to the ranch where we first introduced Jellybean to
Mr. G. It was very touching, as soon as she got out of the trailer. You
could see Mr. G perk up. And I don`t usually cry a lot. Boy, I had a big
lump mine throat when I saw this. It was, it was exciting. It was fun.
It was thrilling.
STURLA: I think anytime you see a connection between two species, non-
human, any humans, or two non-human or two humans, it is a beautiful thing.
And it`s really hard not to get moved when you see an individual animal,
feel such incredible grief simply because, simply because, you know, his
buddy is gone and going to essentially a starvation mode.
But it`s -- these stories are, you know, they do warm our hearts. And
it`s, it`s just wonderful that we`re able to have them together and they`re
going to live out their life in pure luxury at animal place.
MELBER: We loved it here in the newsroom wanted to talk. I was glad we
had Mr. G and Jellybean here on the shot. I`ve didn`t get to ask them
about the mid terms. Maybe do that in our next cable news interview.
Jeff McCracker and Kim Sturla, and Mr. G, and Jellybean, thank you,
STURLA: Thank you very much.
MCCRACKER: Thank you.
MELBER: That does it for us. I`m Ari Melber, in for Lawrence O`Donnell.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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